[erlang-questions] The Beauty of Erlang Syntax

Michael T. Richter ttmrichter@REDACTED
Wed Feb 25 10:48:21 CET 2009

On Wed, 2009-02-25 at 08:35 +0000, Rob Charlton wrote:

> Michael Richter wrote:
> > Why do you think people stay away from functional programming 
> > languages in droves?

> The reason nobody has asked this is that for one of several reasons the 
> answer is fixed in advance:
> 1) The development team is a team of programmers who know X
> 2) We are writing a system for operating system Y for which the only 
> applicable language choice is X
> 3) We are extending / improving product Z which is written in X and 
> we're not about to re-write it
> 4) The CTO is a fan of language X and has already hired X experts to get 
> the job done
> 5) The engineering manager wants to play it safe, follow the herd, and 
> develop the system like "everyone else does", using language X
> 6) We are doing work for a customer, and the customer says use language X

To me this is answer #3 from my original post: the needs of the user.

     1. If the development team is most familiar with/capable of X, then
        X is the only rational choice in a competitive (read:
        non-academic) environment.  Time to market kills quality dead in
        almost, but not quite, all business situations.
     2. Again this is a user need.  The choice was made because their
        (presumably rational) choice of platform dictated their choice
        of language.
     3. No expansion needed.
     4. This is a variant of your 1, albeit a variant that is
     5. This is similarly a variant of your 1, one that is less
        unfortunate.  It is a relatively sound engineering principle to
        go with proven technology unless the proven technology proves
        incapable of the task.
     6. Again this is a user need.  Presumably the customer in question
        is using one of your six explanations in their own decision.

> There is a rock solid business case for picking Erlang in a lot of 
> circumstances which the CEO/CTO/CFO/Engineering manager could be 
> convinced of I'm sure, but they would have to put aside the 
> considerations above which may not be possible. 

You get no disagreement from me on this.  I would never choose Erlang
for any of my embedded work nor my device drivers back when I did those
two.  But for a lot of my software I'd have murdered my own grandmother
in a slow and gruesome fashion to have access to something like Erlang.
(The closest I got was using QNX for a while whose message-passing style
made me understand and appreciate Erlang instantly on contact.)

> For my own company, we started using Erlang because we believed in
> the 
> ideas in Joe's thesis paper and wanted to give it a try. We can't use
> it 
> for all our work: the Symbian OS development that we do pretty much 
> dictates C++ and Lua, Blackberry dictates Java, other embedded phone 
> work dictates C. But our server products can be written in whatever
> we 
> like. And we like Erlang :)

And I am insanely jealous.  Trust me.  :D

Michael T. Richter <ttmrichter@REDACTED> (GoogleTalk:
When debugging, novices insert corrective code; experts remove defective
code. (Richard Pattis)
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